Our plan was to hike up the Timpanogos trail from Aspen Grove at night, and get to the summit to watch the sunrise. We left provo at about 12:30 am Saturday morning, getting to the Trailhead aat about 1:00. However, about a half a mile or so into the climb, one member of the group had a problem with tendonitis in the ankle. Thinking it would be better to not risk a problem higher on the mountain, we decided to turn around. We called our friend that had dropped us off at Aspen Grove who by that time was almost home, but was kind enough to turn around and come back for Amara. She took her home and we began again up the trail. By this time, it was about 2:00am.
The climb up Primrose Cirque went fairly quickly, we passed Stewart Falls, but weren't able to see much because of the darkness. The stars were quite nice; Orion in particular was very visible. The moon was hidden by the mountains but even without it the sky was still fairly bright. About 3:00 Venus appeared and was very bright. My headlamp died about 5:30 but we had flashlights as well. However, we didn't get them out becuase the stars were bright enough for us to see the trail pretty easily. As we came in to Emerald Lake, we lost the trail twice but were soon able to find it without much difficulty at all. There were a few tets at Emerald Lake that we tried to pass without waking anyone.
About 6:30 the sky began to lighten, but sunrise was still quite a ways away, because of the mountains on the horizon. Coming past Emerald Lake and up onto the slopes of Timp there was some snow. Not enough to warrant snowshoes, but it slowed our progress and was particularly troublesome for the member of our group that had chosen to hike in running shoes. There is a lot of exposure the last mile and a half or so, and in for most of that distance we were balanced on steep slopes or thin ridges that would have been fatal with a wrong step.
We reached the flat spot on the saddle between the summit and the North Summit a few minutes before sunrise. We thought we might be able to make it to the top for sunrise but we underestimated the last push up the Summit pyramid and got there just after the sun had appeared. Still, the views were magnificent and it was inspiring to watch the ridgline we had just climbed change from a sandstone reddish orange color to a paler yellow and then to a stark windswept grey, all balanced in front of the clarity of a clean blue that characterizes an early morning sky in the west. At the summit, we had a nice breakfast of hot chocolate and pepper jack cheese, followed by a very chilly but much refreshing nap. The climb had been about 8 miles not counting our detour and we estimate that we had gained about 4300 feet of vertical.
The descent was longer but quicker. We came down the Timpooneke trail into American Fork canyon, which took us through some beautiful areas of Pine and Aspen forests. There wasn't much wildlife to speak of, just a few chipmunks, but the natural beauty of the Giant Staircase was breathtaking. We got to the trailhead at about 12:30 and met our ride who had coincidentally also just arrived despite the fact that we weren't able to reach her ever since we dropped down into the Giant Staircase from Timpanogos Basin. It was about a 9 mile descent through about 4700 feet of vertical.